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Lesson Plans

Game on: The presidential election is over. When's the next chance to vote?

June 12, 2017

Full Lesson


The presidential election is over, but important races are still taking place. Here is a breakdown of off-year and midterm elections and a fun, interactive Kahoot to test your knowledge:

  • An off-year election is a general election held in an odd-numbered year when neither a presidential nor a Congressional midterm election takes place.
  • A few gubernatorial (governor) and state legislative elections are held in off years, but the vast majority of off-year elections take place at more local levels, called municipal elections. They may include mayors, city councils, school boards and ballot initiatives.
  • Special elections to fill vacancies at the state, federal and local level are often held in off-years.
    • So far in 2017, special elections have been held in Kansas and Montana to fill vacancies left by Trump appointees.
    • The high-profile race in Georgia’s 6th district between Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel, the most expensive in U.S. House history, will take place on June 20, 2017.
  • New Jersey and Virginia are the only two states to hold gubernatorial elections in 2017. Both states have June primaries and November general elections. 
    • The off-year gubernatorial election in Virginia will be especially important because the state will be redrawing its Congressional and state legislative boundaries over the coming years. Virginia is already a gerrymandered state, and if the state legislature and governorship are both controlled by the same party, they could draw and sign into law a redistricting map that disadvantages the opposing party. To learn more about gerrymandering, watch this NewsHour Extra video here.
    • In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy will face off against Republican Kim Guadagno, the lieutenant governor under Governor Chris Christie. If the Democratic-controlled legislature is joined by a Democratic governor, the state may consider tax increases and marijuana legalization.
  • Midterm elections, the next of which will be held in 2018, are held two years after the quadrennial presidential elections, near the midpoint of the four-year presidential term. Often they are seen as  referendums on a new administration. In 2010, halfway through President Obama’s first term, Republicans gained seats in both houses of Congress.
  • Federal offices up for election during midterm elections include all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 or 34 seats in the Senate. Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms while Senators serve six-year terms.
  • In addition, 34 states elect governors to four-year terms during midterm elections and two states elect governors to two-year terms. Many states also elect state legislatures and elections are held at the municipal level, including for mayors, city councils and ballot initiatives.
  • Turnout in midterm and off-year elections is much lower than that of presidential elections. Just 36.4 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2014 midterm elections, a 70-year low.

Play the Kahoot game here to test your knowledge of off-year and midterm elections.